Selichot Night – 40 years ago

It was the summer of 1970 and I met Kathy at her cousin Benji’s wedding. Benji was marrying Elliot an LA Jew and one of my closest friends. Kathy was designated by Benji to travel over the next week with then to each of the Sheva Berachot. I was designated by Elliot, I think it was a set-up.

During the next week we traveled all over the country. We spent a lot of time together and when you’re in your 20’s, Frum, and living in Jerusalem – in that magical post Six Day War period, the only other thing left to do was get married. It was infectious, the time was filled with Reb Shlomo weddings. Almost every week he performed weddings from among his many followers/admirers/Chassidim. That meant that he was at many of the Sheva Berachot and that meant lots of groupies.

The Shabbat before Kathy made Aliyah, Reb Shlomo Carlebach did a Shabbaton at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Kathy and Reb Shlomo hit it off, after that they often communicated with each other and he became a life-long mentor. I met Reb Shlomo when I was just a kid at Yeshiva Beth Yehudah in Detroit Michigan. He was doing a concert in town and did a surprise concert at the Yeshiva that afternoon, he changed my life forever.

So there we were, moving all over Israel, spending a lot of time with Reb Shlomo and his people and falling in love. As the summer was coming to a close we decided to get married and asked Reb Shlomo for his blessing and wanted to know when he would next be in Jerusalem so that he could marry us. Reb Shlomo surprised us and asked us if we would come to the Khan Theatre on Saturday night (where he was performing) and he would perform Tena’im – an engagement ceremony – as part of the show.

We arrived at the Khan and Reb Shlomo was on stage with about 20 of his Chassidim. It was wild, everyone was singing and dancing on stage, in the aisles, no one was in their seats, and the house was rocking. When Reb Shlomo saw us he beckoned us on stage and the festivities began. We were center stage, he told stories, spoke about how love elevated the highest of the heavens and sang to our souls.

Later that night Kathy and I went to the great Jerusalem synagogue for Selichot services. It is said that before a wedding the bride and groom are forgiven of their sins. That night we balanced passion and introspection. We were on a high from the previous few hours and facing Selichot, we were suddenly sobered.

We got married at King David’s tomb on the first night of Chanukah and of course Reb Shlomo was there. In fact, with typical Shlomo flair, he brought a whole plane load of tourists with him.

Every year since then and especially since Kathy’s passing, I review both of those nights. This Saturday night is the 40th anniversary of our engagement. I don’t yet know where I’ll be this Saturday night, but in my head I‘ll be at the Khan, in love and with a sense of trepidation as to what life has in store for the two of us.

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